When Edgewood High School, my alma mater, closed it doors after the 1988 graduating class, I found myself gravitating toward Bishop Amat football on Friday nights, where a guy named Eric “The Enemy” Bienemy was keeping the Lancers’ proud tradition alive.
On the other side of town, a tradition was just taking shape at Glendora High School.
After Mike LeDuc cemented his status as the greatest boys basketball coach in the history of the San Gabriel Valley with his 700th career victory over Diamond Bar on Wednesday, it brought back memories of the early days, which started with a kid named Tracy Murray.
To continue reading, click thread
Former Tribune prep editor and now managing editor Steve Hunt came up with the infamous, “Murray Meter” box, which was a game-by-game scoring tracker of Murray’s pursuit of Crescenta Valley’s Greg Goorjian’s CIF-Southern Section single-season scoring record of 1,259 points, which he set in 1978.
Murray averaged 44 points a game during that 1988-89 season, breaking Goorjian’s record with 1,505 points, which still stands today.
There were no blogs or Internet back then, and former staffers recall the phone lines being tied up all night after Tartans games, because everyone wanted to know what Murray did. They couldn’t wait for the newspaper the next morning.
I must have attended eight to 10 games that season, and what an electric atmosphere it became. The upper and lower levels were filled by tip-off, and as Murray grew closer to the record, it became a hard ticket just to get in the building.
Everyone wanted to watch this 6-foot-8 guy roam the floor like an off guard and knock down 3s like he was trying to win a shooting contest.
Murray didn’t win a CIF title, but he led the Tartans to the Southern California Regional title, and lost in the 1989 Division II state title game to Menlo Atherton, 89-83, at the Oakland Coliseum.
The Tartans lost, but Murray left his mark for the final time, pouring in 64 points to set the state championship scoring record.
After Murray graduated and went to UCLA, you figured Glendora would never be the same, except that LeDuc was just getting started.
In the years that followed, Murray’s younger brother Cameron Murray grabbed the torch and helped the Tartans to a CIF championship, becoming the Tribune’s only four-time player of the year, finishing with 1,842 career points from 1991-94.
Then came sharpshooter Casey Jacobsen, who also won a CIF championship and passed both Murrays to become the Southern Section’s career scoring leader with 3,284 points, which he set from 1996-99.
During all that time there was LeDuc.
How many coaches can say they’ve coached three of the top four Southern Section scoring leaders, and do it in such an unselfish way that his teams could win four CIF championships, and 15 league titles in a career that spans three decades?
Just one, coach LeDuc.
Nobody manages egos better than he does. How many times have we watched great individual players ruin the overall chemistry?
Not LeDuc’s teams.
It’s not easy telling high school players that you’re going to run your offense through a certain individual, but LeDuc had a way of convincing his supporting cast that everyone had an important role toward the overall success of the team, whether it was setting picks, or filling their role defensively.
Every time he pitched it, his players bought it, and continue to do so.
It’s that ferocious zone defense that’s been a staple throughout his career.
Even when the Tartans’ offense sputtered, they managed to stay in games against teams they had no business being in.
You wonder why Glendora has made so many deep playoff runs, especially last season when they reached the Division I-A semifinals by knocking off El Toro and Riverside North before falling a game short of the championship game in a close loss against Etiwanda, it’s because of their defensive prowess.
Sure they had Dominic Tiger-Cortes, but they held teams on the defensive end, which wins games.
That’s why in a season the Tartans (19-6, 6-1) have no business competing for a Sierra League title on paper, they find themselves playing for another league title tonight (at 7) at home against Chino Hills (19-6, 6-1), which is bigger, stronger and more athletic.
But they don’t have LeDuc, who continues to astonish and amaze after all these years, and who never seeks out publicity for all his accomplishments.
It took a tip from a reader to realize LeDuc was closing in on 700. LeDuc wanted to keep it a secret, not wanting his team to be distracted.
This is a man who has turned down many all-star coaching invitations because he’s never been fond of what they stand for.
Hopefully he will change his mind, because as much as he might not like it, it would be a pleasure for the area’s best just to have a couple days of his wisdom and experience.
I’ll finish this column with a comment from our blog at insidesocal.com/tribpreps. This comes from a person simply calling themselves, “The Great LeDuc.”
“If anyone ever wants to learn anything about coaching just sit behind the Glendora bench and see a true legend at work. He’s what every coach in the Valley should aspire to be, first class and first rate.
Here’s to 20 more years. The true measure of a coach is not what he does when he had an abundance of talent but what he does to make an abundance with the talent he has. The past three years the Great Le Duc has been at his absolute best. Let’s make it 800!”
(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2161